yvette mattern global rainbow

Chasing Rainbows in Palm Springs

This one can only be seen at night, a special laser light art installation that is part of Greater Palm Springs Pride's celebration.

Carl Schoemig Arts & Entertainment, Current Digital, LGBTQ+

yvette mattern global rainbow

Artist Yvette Mattern's "Global Rainbow" has appeared all over the world, including this installation at Edinburgh, Scotland.

After her first visit to Palm Springs three years ago, Yvette Mattern pictured a rainbow decorating the sky above the desert city.

At night.

The artist’s laser light installation, "Global Rainbow", has been seen around the world in New York City, Berlin (Germany), Mexico City, Bergen Floyen (Norway), Kobe (Japan), and Edinburgh (Scotland), and now it’s coming to Palm Springs during Greater Palm Springs Pride.

“It's really been one of my dreams to bring my laser installation to Palm Springs,” says Mattern, whose rainbow laser light installation will shine above Palm Canyon Drive at Amado Road, Nov. 5-6. There will be entertainment each night starting at 5, followed by the laser lights around 5:45 p.m. led by Bella De Ball. The lights will remain on each night until 10:15 p.m.

Palm Canyon Drive will be closed from Amado to Baristo roads during the weekend, and Mattern believes the street is perfect for the west coast premiere of the installation, featuring the same rainbow colors found in the flag Gilbert Baker created for the LGBTQ community: orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Cleveland, Ohio, 2014, Ahal Festival with Land Studio.

“Palm Canyon Drive is a straight line and the laser lights will be right above the street,” she says. “It will feel like there is a carpet of light above the street. People can navigate and walk underneath it and enjoy the rainbow. The laser will be terminated on the mountains far away south of Palm Canyon Drive. Otherwise they could be seen from miles away. I think it will be really beautiful.”

Mattern hopes to be in Palm Springs for the installation. “I will try very hard to be in town because I know this is going to be a big celebration this year,” she says. “The history of Palm Springs ties into the history of the gay community in my eyes. I think to be able to have the rainbow as part of that celebration this year is really significant, and I'm really proud and honored to be part of it."

Palm Springs Life spoke further with Mattern about the installation and what inspired her to create it.

How did you connect with Palm Springs Pride? Did they reach out to you or did you contact them?

They reached out to me, which I was very happy about.

Have you been to Palm Springs before? What brought you there?

My husband Georg Polke has a really good friend named Udo Kier, the actor. And that was the first time we came to Palm Springs tree years ago. I completely fell in love with the city, have gone back several times, and always felt that the rainbow would look absolutely incredible there. So I was really happy to receive the invitation.

Bergen, Norway, 2020.

What can people expect to see?

I think people are going to be pretty blown away by it because it's going to be relatively low. It's going to be on scaffolding right near the stage, so it will be like this beacon of light coming from the stage and it will travel down a straight line and terminate on the mountain. I think it's going to be extremely stunning because you also have these particles in the air, the sand and dust. That means the colors are going to be really bright. If there's really intense wind the lasers will move a little bit, but that makes it even more fun because it's like dancing.

What is your connection to the gay community?

I'm not gay myself, but I've been very involved with the gay community since I was young. I have a very special story because one of my closest cousins on my father's side had a really difficult time coming out in a small town in South Dakota and he ended up committing suicide. It is very important to me, it’s close to my heart, and every time I present it for pride it’s pretty much to commemorate him in a way.

New York City, 2009

What was your inspiration for the Global Rainbow?

I was trying to figure out how and what kind of medium I wanted to focus on as a visual artist, because my background is in screenwriting and directing. I have a film degree from Columbia University and I had done a residency in the UK.

I realized that light was something that I really wanted to work with. Then I saw this life-changing rainbow over Walden Pond in Massachusetts. I thought, ‘Oh, that's it! I'm going to make a rainbow.’ I want to make a light installation, the size of a real rainbow. It took me several years to figure out how to do it. Then I discovered lasers…

What attracted you to this type of art installation? What is the experience for the public seeing this art in an outdoor space versus inside an art gallery?

It was born out of a vision, seeing this rainbow, and being inspired by it. Thinking about the resonance of Walden Pond and the transcendentalists. The challenge was really how do I manifest it? How do I really make it work? Once I discovered that those lasers would make it work, then I discovered the impact that it actually has even on myself. The first time I had the Rainbow installation up was in New York City. The lasers weren’t as powerful as the lasers I am using today.

The first time I used the powerful lasers was in Berlin and I was blown away like everybody else. The lights were so bright. It’s really big and a monumental installation, but at the same time it is really quiet and meditative. I always tell people that everybody has their own relationship to a rainbow and what the symbol of a rainbow is. It is resonating with many people. I've been doing it now for 13 years and people keep asking for it.

• READ NEXT: What's Happening at Greater Palm Springs Pride 2021.